CONTACT (Elko County)
(CONTACT CITY)(SALMON CITY)(SALMON RIVER)
While Contact didn't achieve major prominence until after the turn of the century, the first discoveries took place in 1870 when James Moran found gold. However, no production took place. Additional gold and copper deposits were also discovered during the next couple years. In 1872, a prospecting party of three men; Hanks, Lews, and Noll, located a number of new deposits on China Mountain. This led to the opening of other mines by the end of 1872: Pocahontas (Henry Prosser), Golconda (J.H. Means, J.A. Hicks, S.W. Wessels), Dunderberg (Means, Hicks, Wessels), and Virgin (B.J. Virgin). Four separate but adjacent mining districts were organized: Salmon, Kit Carson, Porter (Portis), and Alabama. Mines in the Kit Carson district were the Juniper (A.C. Minear, H.A. Noll), Montezuma (Robert Parsons), Edith (W.J. Hanks, C.W. Servis), Morningstar (Parsons, Noll, Minear), Polar Star (Service, Hanks), and Sioux (Servis, Hanks). Servis also served as district recorder. All of the mining districts were later consolidated into the Contact Mining District. Although no town formed, a small hotel was completed in April of 1874. The hotel was built to serve as a stop on the Toano and Idaho Fast Freight Line.
In 1876, an official of the Southern Pacific Railroad located a number of other deposits on China Mountain. A large number of Chinese workers were hired to work the mines on a commission basis. The most prominent of the early mines, the Boston, shipped copper ore to Swansea, Wales until 1880. However, production from this early flurry of activity was quite small. During the early 1880s, new mines continued to open but had little sustained production. In the Kit Carson district, the Reverend Goode and Exchequer Goode were opened by Thomas Cochran and John Mitchell. L.F. Wrinkle worked the Cedar, Nevada, and Stormy Mines. In the Porter district, W.J. Hanks and P.H. Jackson discovered the Arizona Mine, and relocated the Boston, Albany, and Harper Mines. The Porter (H.A. Noll), Utah (W.J. Hanks), Dividend (E.D. Boyle), California (Boyle), and Juniper Mines (Boyle) were also active. The Stevens Gold and Copper Mining Company owned the Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Elko Mines. In the Alabama district, the Lizzie (Dwight Thourot) and Emily (P.A. Dwight) weres flurry of activity, little was produced and most had given up by the end of 1883. After this, the area was essentially abandoned until 1887.
In 1888, the Delano group was located by Hickey, Delano, Ayres, and Hechathin. This discovery would eventually become one of the most productive in the Contact district. In 1889, two men named Warwick and English, located the Brooklyn Mine. By 1891, two other mines; the Empire (DeWitt) and Copper Queen (Susettie), had also begun production. By 1895, Contact mines employed over 70 miners. The extensive prospecting around Contact continued to be rewarded by new discoveries. In 1896, David Bourne, who would later become known as the "Father of Jarbidge," located the Mammoth Mine. Also, the Bonanza Mine was discovered by Colemen, Moore, and Thompson. Coleman later became rich after discovering the Father De Sinet property in the Black Hills.
1897 was a year of great promise. In January, 100 men were employed. By April, the number had risen to 200. A post office, with Eugene Shields as postmaster, opened on February 6. There were a number of mines being worked, including the Blue Bird (Jack Reed), Jackrabbit (Davis, Warsick, and English), Reliance (J.A. Dwight), Yellow Girl (J.H. Poole), and Delano. The Salmon River Mining Company was formed by 20 miners who contributed $100 each for the purpose of building a 50-ton smelter. S.P. Kemper was elected president and oversaw the smelter's construction. The smelter proved extremely unsuccessful and only processed 14 tons from the Bluebird Mine before closing. This was a heavy blow to the area and many people soon left. In February, 1898, the Delano property was bonded to an English syndicate for $65,000 but nothing came of it. By 1900, population had dropped to 85. Only five residents were left by 1905.
A slow revival began in late 1905. A school, with Flora Vincent as teacher, opened. Contact's first real boom was underway. A new town began to form just south of the original townsite, which had contained only a couple buildings. A stageline to Twin Falls began service in September of 1906. The new town was named Contact, a mining term for the contact zone between the granite and porphyry in the district. The United States Mining and Smelting Company came to the district in 1907. By 1908, population stood at 300. In February, the Contact Power and Milling Company, based in Seattle, bought many claims and immediately made plans to build a $200,000 concentrating plant with its own power plant. Prospects looked so good that in April, 1909, three townsites were platted: Contact, Contact City, and East Contact. Two companies, the Western Townsite Company (Mose Jones) and the Contact City Townsite Company (Henry Smith), developed the townsites. Smith declared Contact the "Butte City of Nevada." The most developed was Contact City which contained 15 buildings. Between the three townsites, over 450 lots were sold by 1915. The 35 room Contact Hotel (Etta Bruneau), built with local granite, was completed in August. A number of saloons; including G.L. Collins' Mint Saloon and Restaurant, The Palace and Northern Saloons (Lewis Pratt), and Blue Ribbon Bar (Ole Haas); a barber shop (William Hankins), and the W.A. Kent General Merchandise Store also opened. Kent was called the "Pioneer Merchant of Contact," and was beloved by the residents. A promotional paper, the Contact News, began publication on May 20. This paper is quite a mystery. No historical books mention the paper's existence. It was unknown until a copy of the third issue was donated to the Northeastern Nevada Museum. This issue reveals little about the paper but appears to be done by the Western Townsite Company. The publication was short-lived and apparently did not survive the summer.
In 1910, the Nevada Copper Mining, Milling, and Power Company, based in Tecoma, bought out the United States Smelting company. The Contact company was renamed the Contact-Seattle Copper Mining Company. The two companies controlled virtually all the mines in the district. Due to demand, a tri-weekly stage to Rogerson, Idaho, was started in April. Another newspaper, the Contact Miner, began publication on March 20, 1913. J.V. Marshall served as editor and owner, under the auspices of the Miner Publishing Company. It was a staunchly Democratic newspaper, published weekly on Thursdays. The paper cost on $2.50 per year. In 1915, the paper suspended when Marshall went on a trip. The paper restarted but Marshall sold out in December to E.H. Childs. However, Childs only printed a couple of issues before ending publication.
In August, 1914, the Nevada Copper company began construction of a 100-ton leaching plant. Henry Smith was named manager. Coincidentally, Smith had sold the land for the plant! The mill was completed in late 1915. 1915 was spent in developing four mines; Delano, Champ Clark, High Ore, and Copper Shield. Only $2300 was produced. In 1916, the Contact-Seattle company's Delano Mine produced almost all of the $181,000 mined. The mine's ore kept the mill running and the competition solvent. Mines in Contact produced ore from 1916 to 1958, a tremendous record of consistency. In 1918, the Vivian Tunnel Company began work on a new mine. The company began a Sutro-type tunnel to help drain water from the Contact mines and provide an easier method of ore removal. However, the project proved very expensive and was abandoned before completion.
While there was consistent production from 1916 to 1919, the 1920s proved to be the decade that put Contact on the map. In September of 1922, the Three in One Mining Company announced plans to build a $2.5 million smelter 15 miles south of Contact. However, the plan was revealed as a scam and was never built. Despite this, Contact continued to prosper. In 1923, H.A. DeVaux, head of the Contact Sewerage Company, constructed a number of new buildings, including a two-story, 30-room office building, built with Contact granite. By 1924, the town was a buzz when construction on the Union Pacific Railroad's Oregon Short Line began. The line ran from Rogerson, Idaho, to Wells. A jail was completed in March and tended to be filled to capacity on the weekends.
With great fanfare, the $110,000 Fairview Hotel opened on May 24, 1924. The building was three stories and had 50 rooms. One of the owners, H.A. DeVaux, provided fireworks and W.G. Greathouse, Nevada Secretary of State, was guest of honor. The hotel was owned by the Contact Construction and Investment Company, which had Robert Weir as president.
In July, the Gray Mining Company, of which the Vivian Tunnel Company was a subsidiary, began to work the Vivian Tunnel once again, and hoped to quickly complete the 20,000' tunnel. A new newspaper, the Nevada-Contact Mining Review, began publication on November 22. The paper was run by Mark Musgrove, former mining editor of the Nevada State Journal. The paper was published by the Nevada State Herald in Wells. It was a four page, seven column setup, and cost $2.50 a year. However, Musgrove never paid the Nevada State Herald for the printing. This fact changed Herald editorials from praise for the Contact paper to sullen reports on how the paper was a blight on the newspaper business. Musgrove switched the printing job to a plant at Filer, Idaho in January of 1925. The paper was taken over in June by Leslie Fox who also ran the Kimberly (Idaho) Tribune. However, success was not in the cards and the paper folded in September, much to the glee of the slighted Herald.
On March 11, 1925, the first construction train of the Oregon Short Line arrived in Contact. Construction began on a depot, located below town next to the Salmon Falls River. Regular service began within a month. Meanwhile, the Fairview Hotel had fallen on hard times. The hotel went into receivership in September. It was initially sold at a tax sale for $1,525 to Robert Weir, Jr. The ploy didn't work and the bid of the owner's son was disallowed. At another sale in October, the hotel was purchased by J.L. Newland for $2,700. However, the hotel burned on May 31, 1926. It only took 30 minutes to completely destroy the expensive building. The main business left in Contact by the end of 1926 was the Fred Johnson Merchandise Store. Johnson also had branch stores in Wells and Montello. A new school was built in 1927. The two-room school housed 40 students. Flo Reed, who taught at many Elko County schools, served as teacher from 1927 to 1930. Marguerite Patterson Evans, late sister of northeastern Nevada historian Edna Patterson, was the school's last principal and was the only teacher in the high school. The high school closed in 1934, although it was sporadically used during Contact's revival periods. In the 1920s and 1930s, there were actually two separate schools operating. The grammar school was the two room building built in 1927 while the high school occupied an old pool hall.
The advent of prohibition in 1917 did little to slow down the thirsts of Contact's populace. Bootleg activity was prominent in the mountains of the area. It was said there were more people bootlegging than lived in the town during the 1920s. The biggest operation was at a place called Heaven's Delight. In town, the products were sold at a speakeasy named Hell's Delight. Virgil Church recalled "There were six major moonshine operations in Contact from 1917 until the repeal of Prohibition in 1932. Those were just the big outfits. I was a moonshiner. Hell, everybody in town was a moonshiner making grain whiskey in their cellars." John Detweiler echoed the sentiments, "My father was justice of the peace here for years. He was never a bootlegger or moonshiner. Said he couldn't risk the chance, said they'd throw away the keys to the jailhouse if the judge was ever arrested. But hell, he was the No. 1 supplier of everything needed to make the whiskey. Dad hauled in all the coal, barrels, wheat, and sugar to supply the moonshiners. Dad had the slot machine concession in town and would always take me with him when he collected the money from the slots at Hard Rock Tilly's sporting house at the south end of town. As long as I was with him, mother figured dad would not get in any trouble."
In 1930, a new Contact townsite was laid out. Power for the town was provided by a power plant that had been built by the Vivian Tunnel Company. Contact's population stood at 260. However, the town's best days were now behind her. In October of 1931, the property and buildings of the Gray Mining Company were sold for taxes. A lack of bids forced Elko County to buy the property for $956. The appraised value of the property was $37,000. In January of 1932, the property was again sold for taxes. Once again, Elko County had to buy the property, this time for $1,124. By 1935, Contact still had two general stores, hotel, two saloons, post office, and school. But the population had shrunk to 100. Most of those remaining were being supported by the WPA program. A depressed copper market plagued the town and mine production continued to shrink. Despite the slowdown, an Episcopal Church, St. Agnes Chapel, was completed and dedicated in June, 1936. The church became the victim of a devastating fire in August, 1942. The fire started in the L.C. Bugbee Mercantile Store, when a kerosene burner in a refrigerator exploded. There was hardly any water to fight the fire. The building housed a store, restaurant, hotel, bar, and service station, all of which were destroyed. The flames spread to the church and also burned a number of homes before being extinguished.
Mines around Contact didn't revive until 1943. War demand for copper raised prices and made mining profitable again. The Marshall Mining Company (owned by Maurice Marshall) began working the Delano Mine and developing a new prospect, the Marshall Mine. At the same time, W.C. Lewis and Charles Whitcomb began development of the Bonanza property. Fire visited Contact again in May, 1947, when a service station, bar, store, and dance hall, owned by Ed Henzinger, was completely destroyed. The loss was put at $40,000, none of which was covered by insurance. In November, Contact elected a mayor for the first time, Ray King. Despite renewed optimism, the Contact revival had faded completely by 1947. From 1943 to 1946, over 800,000 pounds of copper were produced. However, from 1947 to 1951, only 7,000 pounds were mined. Another fire in August, 1951, destroyed the last hotel, formerly owned by Contact mayor Ray King.
1952 began Contact's last revival. The Marshall Mine was renamed the Nevada-Bellvue and extensive work ensued. But it was too late to save the Contact stop on the Oregon Short Line. The Union Pacific closed the depot in December. The depot was later moved to Lee, south of Lamoille, where it still stands today.
A strange occurrence took place in March, 1953. 70-year old Thomas Williams shot and killed 72-year old J.R. "Tex" Hazelwood. The two had been feuding for years. Since the 1920s, "Tex" had built quite a reputation around Contact and nearby ranches of the Union Cattle company. He was labeled as being "one stave short of being round." He roamed the area living in caves or crude willow shelters and his reputation for being strange kept him off of all local ranch payrolls. He achieved the height of his notoriety when he came up with a new way to rustle cattle. Hazelwood fashioned shoes that had cow hooves on the bottom. Puzzled cattlemen couldn't figure out how, even in deep snow, their cattle were disappearing without any human footprints nearby. Tex was finally caught and spent a couple of years in prison. Once he was released, Hazelwood returned to the Contact area where he continued to be a problem. It was because of his orneriness and shenanigans that he eventually met his fate while sitting in his pickup truck in Contact. The shoes used in his rustling are on permanent display at the Northeastern Nevada Museum.
The Nevada-Bellvue Mine kept producing substantial amounts of copper from 1952 to 1957. The mine was still owned by Maurice Marshall but was being leased by the American West Exploration Company (Murray Schurtz, president). Ore was sent to the huge smelters at Garfield, Utah. Despite the depot closure, ore was still shipped from the Contact siding. The revival ended abruptly in 1957. The Nevada-Bellvue had produced virtually all of the almost two million pounds of copper mined from 1952 to 1957. No significant production has taken place since. All told, the Contact district has produced 5.8 million pounds of copper, 360,000 pounds of lead, 127,000 ounces of silver, 18,000 pounds of zinc, and 1,200 ounces of gold.
By time the Contact post office closed on August 31, 1962, the town was virtually empty. Postmasters that served the town included James Dwight, Mary Reed, Albert Carpenter, Adam Schmidt, Isaac Reed, Wyatt Kent, James Marshall, Ferdinand Johnson, Stella Klitz (who died while postmaster in 1951), and Isabella Wright. Some exploration was in the 1970s by the Sunshine Mining Company, and by Exxon Minerals and Homestake Mining Company in the 1980s, but nothing further has ever been done.
Today, a few residents still live in Contact, mainly working in Jackpot or for the highway department at the Contact Maintenance Station. A number of buildings still exist. In the oldest part of Contact, located just north of the maintenance station, are the rock walls of one of Contact's first stores. In the main town of Contact, just west of US 93, old homes remain, mixed in with newer trailers. An impressive concrete building dominates the townsite. The building served for years as the Community Social Hall. Many social functions, in particular dances, were held there. The walls were covered with grandiose murals of the developers fanciful visions of what Contact was going to be. The old school, now a residence, still stands. A cemetery is located nearby. The Contact depot was moved to Lee where it still stands. The rails of the Oregon Shortline were torn up after the line folded in 1978. In the hills around Contact, many reminders of its mining heyday abound.